As briefly as possible I would like to answer some questions and correct some misconceptions. These are from earnest, inquiring people who desire to understand and do God's will. Since the questions, as well as the misconceptions, came in different words, I will discuss them by subjects.
(1) Do you believe in "the local church," a congregation; and that Christians are required to assemble and work together for certain reasons?
I can answer that with an emphatic "yes," but it is necessary to clarify the meaning of the words. If by "the local church" you mean God's people in a locality, a city or place, of course, I believe that there was such in the New Testament (NT). We read of "the church of God at Corinth" (1 Cor. 1:2) and "the church of Ephesus" (Rev. 2:1) as examples. Whether assembled or unassembled "the local church" -- God's people -- were there! So it is today.
However, within the last 40 years or so, the expression "the local church" has come to mean something more than and something other than the Lord's disciples in a locality. This is where the confusion lies. It now means: "An organic institutional body corporate -- functional unit." Or, as some put it: "Every local church of Christ is an organized, functional, institutional entity (body corporate)...a formal organization." I believe that concept is antiscriptural! If you do not fully understand these non-biblical terms (they come from the business world!), you should look them up in a good dictionary. Note carefully that this is telling us what "the local church of Christ is" its nature, constitution, and character. It is not simply the Lord's saints. "The local church" is a corporate body – "a separate entity having its own rights, privileges, and liabilities distinct from those of its members" (Webster). Do you see the difference between this "entity" and disciples of Christ merely meeting and working together? This concept and practice turns the disciples into an institution or organization. I do not believe that doctrine or practice is from the Lord. It is born of human wisdom and the desire to follow the denominations around us. Look at your NT carefully and see if you can find a "body corporate" therein.
Certainly Christians were a "congregation" when they congregated (Acts 20:7) and an "assembly" when they assembled (1 Cor. 14:23). I recently attended a lectureship in Florida and was in an "assembly" or "congregation" of several hundred Christians on different occasions. Was that the Lord's disciples, the Lord’s church? Was that "the local church?" They sung together, prayed together, studied God's word together. There was an "encouraging of one another unto love and good works;" and we were admonished not to miss "the assembling of ourselves together" at the next appointed time (Hebrews 10:24-25)! At one assembly solicitation was made for money and a report given on contributions for the work of the college! If they had come together on Sunday, they could have observed the Lord's Supper, as individual Christians, just as the disciples did in Acts 20:7. Paul and Luke "gathered to break bread" with "the church," meaning the disciples, at Troas. Surely this is scriptural today.
Yes, Christians, the disciples, are instructed by the Holy Spirit: "...let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together...(Hebrews 10:24-25). This simply means that we need one another for our mutual benefit. We need encouragement, teaching, "to admonish one another" (Romans 15:14), and other things for our spiritual good. That is the point of this instruction. It is not a law requiring disciples to congregate at a church building at the appointed times, to do the appointed things, in the appointed way; that is, to attend "worship services." I do not believe that this passage, or any other, is authority for "rulers" to set up a certain number of prescribed formal "services" that "members of a corporate body institution must attend!" The disciples planned and arranged such assembling together on their own. They decided when, where, and with whom they would assemble for satisfying these vital personal needs. They had no corporate control of such activities.
Preachers misuse and abuse this text to bang away at. those who are "identified members of the local church," that it is their God-given duty to attend the "services" prescribed for them by the Eldership. That is what a "formal organization" requires; but that is not the picture of the early saints. They were not "members" of some specific "local church entity." They were individually "members of Christ" and they owed their allegiance to the Lord and to each other without any restrictions or limitations of institutional or body corporate memberships. They did not "belong to" such a "functional unit."
The disciples were what we may refer to as "disciples at large," but not disciples without responsibility or obligations to one another. The relationship was individual to individual. "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body... for the body is not one member, but many... God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired...there are many members but one body...that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it" (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Responsibility came because of their relationship to Christ, as members of His one body, and to one another. They were without the restrictions of "local church membership." When we separate and divide the body of Christ into independent, autonomous (self governing) units or corporate bodies, we are engaged in a divisive, unscriptural work. We are all -- everywhere -- members one of another. There should be no "party lines" of any sort or kind. They were "members" of nothing other than "the body of Christ;" never "members" of some organization called "the local church."
The disciples were free, independent, and individual in all their service in the name of the Lord. As individuals they came together when, where, and with whom they pleased! As often as they pleased. The elders among the disciples had no "specific membership" to shepherd or oversee. They were "among the flock" -- without man-made barriers and restrictions -- and the flock was among them -- the elders.
The way it was then was so simple and unstructured that we stumble (lack faith) at it. Our view is that "it just can't work without an organization or body corporate," like our Northside Church of Christ or Southside Church of Christ. We see the Roman Catholic Church and the denominations and they are structured organizations. Therefore, we have been deceived into thinking that we must have such also. Hence, through .the. years we have developed our own church institution which we have officially denominated (named) the "Church of Christ." This is the name of "the local church" in which we divide members of the body of Christ from other members of the same body. There is only one body Paul said. Do you believe him?
We get confused with this concept. What would we do if we did not "have a church to attend" and in which we "hold membership?" We would be lost, helpless, and bewildered without "our church" and our lovely "church building." The early disciples did not have these.
Sometimes I am asked, even by preachers, "If the way we have it today is not the way it should be, then tell us exactly what we should do." Gladly. Do just exactly what the early disciples, under the direction of the apostles, did as recorded in the NT! You can't beat that. But someone persists: "Well, how did they do it?" What's the problem, don't you have a NT? If not, write me and I will send you one by express mail. If you do have a copy, then you have everything I know about how they served and functioned. But, let me offer a little help here by identifying some things that the early disciples did not have:
(1) They did not have a church building. They did not buy or build such an edifice. Apparently they did not need one.
(2) There is nothing that indicates that they assembled according to scheduled times and places, although it is quite clear that they assembled together, because they wanted and needed to do so.
(3) There is no record that the disciples at any place "formed or constituted themselves into an organic institutional body corporate" or functional unit, such as the "Wendell Avenue Church of Christ."
(4) Nowhere does it tell us that "the elders were supreme and that their word was final in matters of expediency and judgement," as preachers claim today. (That quote is from a well-known preacher.)
(5) The NT does not teach that elders had "authority," especially the kind Jesus claimed for Himself in Matthew 28:18.
(6) Nowhere do we learn that elders are to oversee "the local church" -- corporate body. They are to oversee the flock--people!
(7) Not once do we read where "the local church" selected or appointed elders; or, was instructed to do so.
(8) Never do we read that the disciples should or did assemble "to worship" or attended "worship services."
(9) Not one single reference is made to "the located preacher," "the minister of the Church of Christ," "the Pulpit Minister," or the so-called "full time gospel preacher," such as we have today.
(10) We read nothing about any hired, paid employees of "the local church."
(11) Never do we read of "The Eldership."
(12) Nothing is found about "hiring" or "firing" a preacher or "minister" of any kind.
(13) Nowhere do we read of "Church Officers."
(14) We never read of anyone "starting a church," "building up a church," or "growing a church."
Do I need to say more? Surely that is enough for a start. Now having "washed out" of your mind all the above misconceptions, take your NT and find what is really there for our guidance.
With the clarifying of terms and concepts as above, my answer to the question is a definite "Yes."
(2) Do you believe in elders? What does the word "elder" mean? Who is an elder? How are elders made?
Again we are faced with the necessity of defining our words.
Yes, definitely, I believe in elders and always have! Rumors to the contrary are false. I am an elder! I am a "Senior Citizen." The word "elder" simply means "older" or "senior." We have taken our "pattern" from Rome and the denominations and have given the word "elder" an ecclesiastical meaning; indicating that an elder is a church officer or official. In this usage it is a title or name. In the NT it had no such meaning.
In the NT we read of elder or older men; and of elder or older woman (Titus 2). The word means the same in both instances. It is a word of comparison and outside of "church usage" we understand this easily. We have the "younger" and we have the "elder" (1 Peter 5:5). These words are interdependent, you can't have younger if you don't have older or elder.
You do not, can not, make someone an "elder" by ordination or appointment. Yet in the modern Church of Christ that is what we claim to do. But in this practice the word "elder" is given an erroneous meaning because we use it to speak of a "church officer."
"The truth is that the attempt to change the meaning of the word elder, older...into a suddenly created officer is a complete subversion of the meaning of a plain Greek and English word...it stifles all rules of language, all common sense, and converts the Scriptures into a contradictory and un-trustworthy composition." -- Tolbert Fanning, the first editor of the Gospel Advocate about 100 years ago.
"Presbuterous is an adjective of the comparative degree, and literally means older. -- E.G. Sewell, Gospel Advocate.
"You have elders in the assembly because some are older than others." -- James E. Scobey, Gospel Advocate.
"To assert that the elders sent for at Miletus were official, or that the elders with whom Peter classes himself were any other than aged, experienced men, is to say the least, a doubtful assumption..." -- William Lipscomb, Gospel Advocate.
All the above quotes are from earlier, able preachers. They spoke with one voice the truth on this subject, from which our people have gradually departed.
Shepherding, pastoring, and seeing over the flock of God is the responsibility of the elders or seniors. They are ordained, appointed by the Holy Spirit to do this (Acts 20:28). They need only to recognize and accept the obligation; the appointment was set out long ago for those who are elders, experienced, mature (cf. Hebrews 5:11-14).
Even elder or senior women have been appointed or ordained by God, through the Apostle Paul, for certain kinds of service (Titus 2:3-5). Does this make them "church officers?"
In 1872, E.G. Sewell wrote in the Gospel Advocate with reference to Titus 2:3-5:
"The phrase elder women is from the Greek presbuteras, which is only the feminine plural of presbuterous. If therefore presbuterous means official men, presbuteras means official women . If not, why not?"
The apostle appointed or ordained elder women to certain responsibilities just exactly like he did elder men (Acts 14:23, 20:28). No one can "appoint" a woman to be an "elder" nor can we appoint or ordain a man to be an elder! You can't make them older by ceremony or ritual! Paul appointed elder (mature, experienced) men and he appointed elder (mature, experienced) women to certain tasks; but they were already "elders" when these duties were placed upon them.
Paul also "appointed" or "ordained" that "you who are spiritual" are to "restore" one who is overtaken in a fault (Gal. 6:1). But there is no ritual or ceremony, no ecclesiastical appointment to a church office, that makes one a "spiritual" person. The "spiritual" is compared to the "babes" or immature in I Cor. 3:1-3. That is exactly what it means to be an elder; of either gender! There is as much divine authority for a ritual or ceremony to "ordain" one to be "spiritual" as there is to "ordain" one to be "elder." Today we "manufacture" or "make" elders, church officials, by ritual or ceremony just like the Roman Catholic Church does it. They are not God's elders, they are man-made corporate officials!
Yes, indeed, elders were appointed! This is plainly stated in scripture. Men who were already elders were appointed, or placed, or arranged for doing the work of a bishop, shepherd, or pastor. Upon them this responsibility was placed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3.) Any and all who are elders (older, mature, experienced) had better be up and about this business. The "appointment" or "authority" for doing so has been in force since the days of the apostles.
But, please, remember that you are to watch for souls, feed the sheep, tend the lambs, see over and tend the flock of God. The Lord never assigned you to be a Board of Directors over a corporate body institution to manage buildings and budgets!
(3) Do you believe it is scriptural for disciples to buy or build buildings in which to meet? Do you think it is sinful for us to own a church building? Do you think we should sell all the church buildings?
"The New Testament does not contain the command (example or necessary inference, CAH) for churches to build meeting houses or church edifices. No NT church had one, and such buildings are expediencies only, not essential to acceptable worship or divine service; and the church could exist today, meet for worship and carry on every work the church is commanded to perform without owning a 'church building' -- for they could rent or lease accommodations for assembly, as many business firms do in the conduct of their enterprises." -- Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Current Issues, 1967.
Brother Wallace's statement is to the point. Yet today church buildings -- something in no way alluded to in the NT -- are viewed as essential. Not simply a place to meet, but larger and larger, increasingly elaborate, cathedrals to impress the world and keep up with the other denominations. No self-respecting, first-class church institution should be without an impressive "headquarters" building! This is the place where all the corporate members huddle together at the appointed times to do the appointed things.
The most tragic thing about our love for large impressive church edifices is that by far the largest percentage of "the Lord's treasury" goes to build and maintain the things. That means, my brother and sister, that the largest portion of what you drop in the plate goes solely for building and maintaining the church edifice, grounds, and similar material facilities. But you have no reason for complaint because you just "drop it in," leaving its use for church officials to determine!
In the first issue of this paper reference was made to churches which have built or are erecting church edifices costing up to $10-$12 million! That is a lot of money; and it is all being sunk into bricks, stone, wood, marble, and other materials that will perish with the using. Such buildings and equipment have never contributed directly to the saving of souls! There is an accounting day coming for the vain and ambitious elderships and professional preachers who promote this sort of evil. It is evil because it misappropriates funds that should go to help the poor and preach the gospel to the millions of unsaved in the world. These large impressive buildings minister to human pride and selfishness.
And they are totally unnecessary! The early disciples had none of these things, yet they assembled as needed and preached the gospel to the world. They went out; we are urged to come in to our sanctuary.
Church buildings are "justified" by our preachers and elders on the basis of being an expediency -- "we have to meet somewhere." Implicit in this is the idea that buying or building a church building is our only option. I suspect that 90% of our churches own buildings. Most of the remaining 10% rent a place; and a few meet in homes.
There is one notable exception: the Boston (MA) Church of Christ and all the "churches" they have "planted" over the world. It is interesting to note that this large congregation of saints (about 2500) rents a large meeting place for a Sunday a.m. meeting. That is the only time they attempt to get all "members" together. However, during the week, they "host" an average of "over 230 Bible Talks...in the Greater Boston Metropolitan area." These are "weekly Bible discussion groups." Almost without exception there is a report of 2-20 baptisms each week. This one group of saints is making more disciples, baptized more people, and is multiplying faster than any other group of Christians anywhere! They have demonstrated effectively that buying or building a church building is wholly unnecessary to rapid growth and the development of saints even in our age.
Church edifices are by far the most expensive "expediency" we have ever employed. On the average I suspect 65-75% of the total corporate treasury goes for buildings, equipment, and maintenance. The "expediency" has become our main concern! Second in cost is the hired professional "Pulpit Minister," the other variety of "ministers," and other "church staff." The remaining 10-15% of the so-called "Lord's money," may be spent to preach the gospel to the lost and provide for the needy! Can you imagine that? We spend most of it on ourselves for things we do not even need while the lost remain unreached with the gospel and the poor neglected.
Brethren and sisters, weigh well what I have just set out for you. Is that the way you want it? That is unrighteous stewardship and the day of reckoning is coming. You will answer for your folly in relinquishing control of your contribution, whether little or much. You had better stop this practice and take the responsibility for the use of your "contribution."
No, I do not believe that it is "sinful" for a group of saints to buy or build a modest place to meet if that it is the best expediency for such. But the facts are that it is dangerous to start down that path. Look at where it leads. In the earlier days in this country our brethren sometimes did buy or erect a small building and that was all the building was -- a meeting place and not much at that. I well recall those days. One problem today is our strong desire to get big crowds together for our "worship services." And some preachers have argued that "bigger is better." That is the way of our "church growth specialists." Bigness spells success! Well, they are wrong about it! Bigness of that sort means failure in God's work!
"Do you think we should sell all the buildings?" Personally, it is my judgement that our people, especially "the people in the pews," should seriously consider the scripturalness of this over-emphasis on buildings and the tremendous expense. Is this wise? Is it good stewardship? I do not believe it is. Millions for buildings for us and pennies for preaching the gospel to the lost is not a course, I want to stand before God and account for.
If we are not willing to really turn from our heavy financial investments in material things like buildings, equipment, and maintenance, perhaps we could consider just cutting out things that are outside the realm of "necessity," and invest this savings in a real effort to send preachers to take the gospel to the lost. Think what could be saved in cost if we only built the minimum of what is necessary.
Yes, I think we should shed the evil of these large, expensive, church edifices, with the unnecessary related things. If all you need is a comfortable meeting place, then make it just that. Or, better still break up these large groups and meet in homes, conference rooms at a motel or place of business. What we are doing is not working. It is self-defeating. Our selfishness is evident in our spending millions for our creature comforts and pride, and pennies to save the lost! Just think what we could do if we would!
(4) Do you believe that a group of saints have the scriptural right to incorporate in order to buy and own property, a church edifice, for example?
The early disciples were never confronted with such a question. They met in homes, caves, open places, the temple area, synagogues, public places, etc. They never bought or owned property. They did not need such an "expediency" -- as we call it. As long as any of them had a house, they had a place to meet. They did not need a centralized, specific meeting place.
But this question confronts us today because we put more trust in a church building, a "headquarters" edifice, where all corporate members are required to assemble at the appointed times, than in any other thing we do! Our faith is in the building; and it is to be attractive, comfortable, and indicate to the world that we are prosperous people.
Elders, it is irresponsible stewardship to spend the multiplied thousands of dollars for property and buildings, rather than using it to preach the gospel to the lost and help the needy. Even worse, is the investing of such vast sums in buildings that are put to such little use -- 3 to 5 hours a week! You are spending your time and talent as a Board of Directors for a religious corporation! You are not "shepherds" of the sheep! You do not "watch for souls." You do not "tend the lambs!" You do not "admonish the unruly, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all men" (1 Thess. 5:14). You are not pastors, teachers, feeders! May God open your eyes and hearts and give you the courage to make the necessary moves to correct the unscriptural, unholy mess we are in.
But to the question at hand. Yes, I think that under some circumstances a group of saints could form a corporation in order to buy or own property. I suppose this could be considered an expediency, a matter of judgement; but it is a dangerous one to implement due to where it can lead. For example, once it is granted that it is "expedient" to erect a building as a "meeting place," then begins all the human judgement about how large, how elaborate, how much money to spend and obligate ourselves for, where to build, plans for future enlargements, and on and on. See all the decisions (and troubles) we bring on ourselves just planning to implement an "expediency!" Just look at what we have now in church edifices -- all justified under what is called "the law of expediency." A $10 million building --an "expediency?" Remember, that Paul said: "All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient" (1 Cor. 10:23). While buying and owning a meeting house may be lawful, I am sure that investing $10 million in one is not a "lawful" expedient! It is absurd! Some say that it is an "abuse," but how can we determine what is an "abuse" in that vast area of human opinion? One man's "abuse" in another man's "expediency." Just how much should Christians invest in material structures; especially when they are put to such little use?
Look at the other human opinions, "expediencies," that get involved. One Eldership in a large city decided that they should "sell-out" where they were and move to a better area of the city. They were motivated by the need for "white flight" -- the blacks and other minorities were "taking over," that section was going "commercial" and they could get a fantastic price for the old property! The Eldership decided to move their "corporate headquarters" to a better area, to a middle and upper income area. This was done over the objections of many members; and there was a "split;" and because these people refused to go along, and wanted to stay in that area, and refused to be obligated for a staggering indebtedness, the Eldership withdrew from them and sent out letters to other churches "marking" these disciples. They even "marked" anyone who associated with them and any church that would accept such "rebellious" people! That's the way the game is played by the authoritarian elderships in many places! Obey or else! But they sold that property for $700,000, bought 3 acres of ground in a "nice" area and put up a big, near -- $1 million building. That's progress, brother! All in the name of an "expediency!" They left the better area for reaching souls for Christ and moved to an area of the prosperous and well-to-do who are the most unlikely prospects. But, Oh! they do have a "church plant" of which they can be proud.
Now all that was done for "the good of the Lord's work," of course! No! Why not confess the truth. It was done mainly to satisfy vanity and pride; minister to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life! Oh! But that was the "expedient" thing to do! Yeah, well, tell it to the Lord! Sadly, we actually equate this type of thing with doing "the Lord's work" and "progress" and "growth" of His kingdom. It is worldly and self-serving. Get honest, brethren, let's call such things what they really are!
Probably not. I pray that I may have helped you realize what is involved and at stake in all this. One thing for certain, we can't fool God! Speaking for myself alone, I long ago decided that I will not agree to help pay for such extravagant, worldly investments. Nor will I feel obligated in anyway to help to pay off such indebtedness.
Oh! I so wish I could arouse you -- "the people in the pews" -- to your individual responsibility for deciding what you will contribute your money to do! It is an abdication of your responsibility to simply drop it in the plate for the corporation to use as its officials decide. A situation in which you have no voice nor vote. They can decide to obligate "the local church" corporation for a large indebtedness for buildings, equipment, and hired employees, and lay on you the obligation to pay for it! You control your financial resources, your entire life and effort. You -- the people in the pews -- have three duties: (1) be taught, (2) obey and (3) pay! You control whether you accept that role or not! You control "the purse strings" of your financial resources and this gives you "control" to that extent. God will hold you responsible for that "control" or use of such. In these "church operations," buildings, salaries, etc., money talks loud and clear! It takes money (yours!) to turn the operational wheels. You have more "power" than you exercise. You have the full "power" over your own life and resources; but you can give it away to "the local church" corporation if you desire.
The "pulpit ministers" pressure you more and more to pay more and more to finance the corporate operation. Increasingly the idea is developing that the Eldership should review your financial situation and determine how much you should give; and discipline you if it is not as much as they think it should be! After all, the covetous person should be withdrawn from; and how can they know if you are covetous or not if they do not know your income and its use! This is gradually happening among us. The problem is that "the people in the pews" don't know what is going on, what is happening to them in the corporate church operations. Most are ignorant and docile; they really don't care. Wake up, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Eph. 5:14).
This is a long article, but I must give one illustration; a true life experience, to show where we are. Recently I was in attendance at a "corporate church meeting," on Sunday morning, when the "pulpit minister" started his "sermon" by stating that he was sorry to announce that "over $3000 is missing from the church treasury, and that the thieves are here this morning! They are members of this church! They have actually stolen money from the Lord, from the Lord's treasury.
The audience was stunned; most could not believe what they were hearing -- or thought they were hearing. The hush that fell over the audience was total. Then they began to realize it was not really true, even though the preacher and the elders believed it was true! Rather it was a "hoax," and a cruel one, used in an effort to pressure, intimidate, and browbeat the members into giving as much as he and the elders think they should.
He had investigated the situation. These hired preachers are "paid" to do things like that, I guess. His detective work had turned up the "robbery." The evidence was circumstantial, but sufficient for him to make out his case proving that the membership included some thieves and robbers, and he had the evidence to identify the guilty parties. He had computed that the wage-earning families would easily earn an average of $20,000 per year. Hence, multiplying $20,000 by 175 he got an average minimum total income of all the 175 families. Then figuring that the contribution from each family to the corporation should be no less than 10% he calculated what the average weekly income or revenue for the corporate church should be. Then he searched the church records of what each person/family contributes and he decided that 60 families are giving more than 60% of the income of the corporation! That meant that the corporation has 115 families of "thieves" at this one church! Holy Horrors! What a rotten sorry lot of people they have there! Over $3,000 (weekly, I guess) is missing from the corporate treasury because the "thieves" are stealing it!!! It belongs to the corporation whether the members give it or not, because the members themselves belong to the corporation and their role is to (1) obey and (2) PAY as "the pulpit minister" and the "Board of Managers," the Eldership, decree! This is the growing view and practice of our church officials. It is no isolated case.
These are all good people, dedicated Christians. They love the Lord and want to please Him. This preacher and the Eldership no doubt think that they are doing right in such actions. But it is wrong, bad wrong! It is so sad and it breaks my heart to see what is happening. It is sad because it shows the increasing power and control of the corporate "local Church," and the pressure it can apply to those who are to pay! It is sad that preachers spearhead such concepts and practices. It is sad that well-meaning, able men, who are "ordained" church officials will try to exercise such authority and pressure on the Lord's Disciples! But even worse, in my view, is the fact that "the people in the pews" are so ignorant of God's word, so fearful and intimidated; that they are in such slavery to men and an unscriptural corporate structure that they accept and bow to such treatment as this. They should be angry and rise up to throw off such shackles before it is too late. Also, it is sad that so many, who may mutter and sputter about it, do not have the courage and faith to stand up and oppose it; and get out of it! Before it is too late!
Let us say with faith, courage, and force what Moses said to Pharoah in Egypt: "Let my people go that they may serve Jehovah!" We must rise up and claim what is ours by the Lord's decree – our individual freedom and responsibility! May God have mercy upon us and direct us as we seek to recover our rights in Christ. God bless you my brother and sister. Can I be of service to you and yours in any way? If so please call on me. – CAH